When England was established there were several kingdoms and the most advanced one was Nurthumbria. It was this period that the best of the Old English literature was written , including the epic poem Beowulf. In the 8th century Nurthumbrian power declined , West Saxons became the leading power. The most famous king of the West Saxons was Alfred the Great. He founded and established schools, translated or caused to be translated many books from Latin in to English. After many years of hit-and-run raids between the European kingdoms, the Norseman landed in the year of 866 and later the east coast of the island was Norseman’s. Norse language effected the English considerably. Norse wasn’t so different from English and English people could understand Norseman. There were considerable interchanges and word borrowings sky,give,law,egg,outlaw,leg,ugly,talk. Also borrowed pronouns like they,their,them. It is supposed also that the Norseman influenced the sound structure and the grammar of English. Old English had some sound which we don’t know have now. In grammar , Old English was much more highly inflected that Middle English because there were case endings for nouns, more person and number endings of words and a more complicated pronoun systems, various endings for adjectives. In vocabulary Old English is quiet different from Middle English.
Most of the Old English words are native English which weren’t borrowed from other languages. On the other hand Old English contains borrowed words coming from Norse and Latin. Between 1100-1200 many important changes took place in the structure of English and Old English became Middle English. The political event which effected the administration system and language was the Norman Conquest. In 1066 they crossed the Channel and they became the master of England. For the next several next years, England was ruled by the kings whose native language was French. On the other hand French couldn’t become the national language because it became the language of the court , nobility, polite society, literature. But it didn’t replace as the language of the people. English continued to be the national language but it changed too much after the conquest. The sound system&grammar wasn’t so effected but vocabulary was effected much. There were word related with goverment:parliment,tax, goverment,majesty; church word: religion, parson, sermon; words for food: veal, beef, mutton, peach,lemon,cream,biscuit; colors: blue, scarlet, vermilion; household words: curtain, chair,lamp,towel,blanket; play words: dance,chess,music,leisure,conversation; literary words: story romance, poet, literary; learned words: study, logic grammar,noun,surgeon, anatomy, stomach; ordinary words for all sorts: nice,second,very,age,bucket, final,gentel, fault, flower,count,sure, move, surprise, plain.
Middle English was still a Germanic language but it is different from Old English in many ways. Grammar and the sound system changed a good deal. People started to rely more on word order and structure words to express their meaning rather than the use of case system. “This can be called as a simplification but it is not exactly. Languages don’t become simpler , they merely exchange one kind of complexity for another For us Middle English is simpler that Old English because it is closer to Modern English. Between 1400-1600 English underwent a couple of sound changes. One change was the elimination of a vowel sound in certain unstressed positions at the end of the words. The change was important because it effected thousands of words and gave a different aspect to the whole language. The other change is what is called the Great Vowel Shift. This was a systematic shifting of half a dozen vowels and diphthongs in stressed syllables.
For example the word name had in Middle English a vowel something like that in the modern word father;…etc. The shift effected all the words in which these vowels sounds occurred. These two changes produced the basic differences between Middle English and Modern English. But there are several other developments that effected the language. One was the invention of printing. It was introduced to England by William Caxton in 1475. After this books became cheaper and cheaper, more people learned to read and write and advanced in communication. The period of Early Modern English was also a period of English Renaissance, which means the development of the people. New ideas increased. English language had grown as a result of borrowing words from French ,Latin, Greek. The greatest writer of the Early Modern English period is Shakespeare and the best known book is the King Jones version of the BIBLE. ( http://www.ingilish.com/orofeng.htm )